by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) We spoke to South African-born, acclaimed adman, Gary Steele (@garysteele30), about his new role as executive creative director of DDB New Zealand, and what things are like down there. He served in the same capacity at TBWA\Singapore from April 2016 to April this year.

Q5: Let’s start with the question on everyone’s lips: why the move way down south?
Gary Steele: There’s a simple answer to that. The opportunity to create more of the amazing work that New Zealand is known for creating, plus the opportunity to work with Damon Stapleton [another SA export promoted this month to DDB regional chief creative officer for Australia and New Zealand (AUNZ)— ed-at-large] and the talented team here at DDB. You put those two things together and it was a pretty simple decision to make.

Q5: What do you hope to achieve in your new role at DDB?
GS: Iconic work. I know it’s a clichéd answer but it’s the reason why I do what I do and why I have decided to move to DDB New Zealand. With the talented team here, I know we can create the iconic work that I want to make — work that not only separates us from others in the industry but, more importantly, is the work that helps us carve out spaces for our clients to be more successful.

Q5: Word is that New Zealand’s advertising and marketing industry is one to watch, though it has a few challenges. What’s your take on that — both the potential and the obstacles?
GS: I have been watching New Zealand for quite some time now and it is a very interesting market, filled with innovation and creativity. The way problems are solved here seems to be a little different from the rest of the world. I believe one of the main reasons for this is due to the size of the market, as it is small enough to fail and move on without worrying about it too much. This means the Kiwi attitude of giving it a go and seeing what happens really shines through, and that is the best ingredient you can have when it comes to trying new things and experimenting with new ideas.

Obstacle-wise, I would say would be the very thing that makes it successful is the same thing that is in the way. The size of the market and the ability to scale ideas further than the shores here is harder. Great ideas travel; it’s just they really need to travel a lot further from here.

Q5: What do you expect the biggest adjustment to being, living and working in New Zealand?
GS: The weather, especially after living in a 34°C tropical climate in Asia for the past 11 years. Besides the drop in temperature, the main thing I [have needed] to get into quite quickly [has been] the cultural understandings and sensitivities that I [need] to know before diving in to solve any problems that our clients may be facing.

Q5: It wouldn’t be right to end off without a quick chat about the Safety Journey video you oversaw for Singapore Airlines. Could you tell us how the concept came about, and what your team did to execute it so brilliantly?
GS: The safety video is something I am extremely proud of for a few reasons. First was the way the team made it beautiful with the amazing craft and attention to detail on a script that didn’t have much movement from a legal point of view. The final piece could not have been achieved without the amazing eye of Nicole Ackermann, another South African; she managed to bring this script to life in the most-beautiful way possible.

The second part of why this piece makes me proud is the fact that we were instrumental in creating a working partnership between Singapore Airlines and Singapore Tourism. They had never worked in collaboration before, and it was the success and love for this film that we created that has now sparked a partnership leading to some more amazing work which we will see coming soon.


Carey FinnCarey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.

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